Public Health Officials Focus on Eating Well [AUDIO]
Ocean County public health coordinator Daniel Regenye said a health inspector's role is not to play "gotcha" with restaurateurs. He said they see food establishments as partners in public health.
"Part of what we try to do is, we go and educate the food establishment, the cook, the food handlers, understanding what public health is and why we look for things within a food establishment," Regenye said, "and that's where you're going to win, or have the desired outcome that you want on good public health and disease prevention."
State, county and local health departments also play important roles in responding to national food recalls and reports of food-borne illnesses.
Another role is working with school districts to help guide healthy food choices for children in cafeterias. Ocean County Health Department spokeswoman Leslie Terjesen said the county worked closely with New Jersey Action for Healthy Kids in getting the Model School Lunch Program passed in 2006.
"So a lot of schools are putting in salad bars," Terjesen said. "They're putting in yogurt, but they don't need to put the french fries and the other foods. Make the healthy choice the only choice; make the healthy choice the easy choice."
Both Regenye and Terjesen said they don't want to come off like they're telling anyone what they should and shouldn't eat. However, they did suggest using moderation.
"Once you eat, you must get out there and exercise," Terjesen said. "That's something that we certainly promote at (the) health department and in schools. We know we want people to consume more of certain foods and nutrients such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains."